My vision: innovation and technology

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Ilan Fluss - The Philippine Star

Twenty-six years ago, I was fortunate enough to experience this great and beautiful country, its culture and its people as the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli embassy in Manila. I am delighted to be back to close the circle, this time as the Israeli Ambassador.

Historically, our close bilateral relations are shaped by two main events: the Open Door Policy of President Quezon, which saved the lives of 1,300 Jewish refugees escaping the terrors of Nazi Germany before the Holocaust in 1942 and the support of the Philippines in the 1947 UN resolution for the establishment of the modern State of Israel. In the face of opposition, the Philippines was the only Asian country to vote in favor of establishing Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. We will always be grateful for these acts by the Philippines.

Since then, our countries’ cooperation and partnership have become more diversified and matured.

MASHAV, Israel’s international development cooperation agency, has given the Philippines the highest priority status. Over the years, thousands of Filipino professionals have taken part in capacity-building programs in Israel. Hundreds of Israeli technical experts have visited the Philippines and established demonstration farms, training centers and contributed to a wide range of development initiatives and projects in various areas. Yearly, 400 young Filipinos undergo a 12-month training program in modern agriculture practices, which aims to strengthen the technical skills of the Filipino professionals to develop the agriculture sector. I plan to initiate long-term projects that will also contribute to the sustainability of the country and the effort to combat climate change.

Israel stood by the Philippines at times of emergency, including sending a field hospital and teams of experts to assist after the disastrous effects of Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel sent teams of health experts and medical equipment to the Philippines. We also vaccinated more than 30,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), diplomats and students who were in Israel.

The devoted Filipino caregivers working in Israel today have become integral and valued members of our society and families. I am happy that the labor agreement between our governments is being implemented to protect their rights.

In tourism, we hope that Philippine Airlines will begin operating direct flights to Israel soon to facilitate more travel and work opportunities. This is the most effective way to promote people-to-people relations.

Our cooperation on defense is very intimate and close. It is essential and critical for the safety and security of both countries. In trade, we are doing a lot – but we can do so much more. We are not even scratching the surface of our potential.

The extensive cooperation on defense and great potential in trade has inspired Israel to open Defense and Trade offices in Manila in 2020. An Honorary Consulate in Mindanao based in Davao was also established in the said year, in addition to the existing one in Cebu. These depict Israel’s strong interest in the Philippines.

As we look to the coming years, the embassy will focus on promoting Israeli technology and innovation. Israel is a small country, but it is a global hub of innovation, entrepreneurship and technologies in so many areas, including climate-tech, agri-tech, wa-tech, health-tech, fin-tech, cyber-tech and more.

Innovation and technologies are not the future – they are the present. The development of more cooperation between our countries in a sustainable and environment friendly way is one of my main goals. We need the guidance and support of the government, but it has to come together with the investment and involvement of the private sector. I hope that I will be able to make a modest contribution to further our friendship towards the peace and prosperity of the Philippines and Israel.

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Ilan Fluss is the Ambassador of Israel to the Philippines.



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